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Midwasteland vFinal

Midwasteland vFinal

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Published by: TimothyGeigner on Sep 28, 2010
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As we don't know yet what biological course these anomalies might ultimately take, it would be
supremely foolish to allow them to propagate. As members of the human race, these nearly identical
creatures that have arose from a mutation in the evolutionary path might seem like our brothers and
sisters rather than rivals, and perhaps they are, but we must never take the risk necessary to find out.
They give off a high level of radiation, of that much we are certain. So high, in some cases, that
they disintegrate the womb of their hosts as they are born. Imagine if this symptom were to proliferate
throughout the entire world population. It would change the way we live, the way we function as a
society. It would destroy the very concept of our family structure. Children without mothers and
grandmothers. Husbands without wives. When we have to take extreme steps against these anomalies
in order to preserve our way of life, it does not mean that those anomalies are victims. It means that we
are.

--Michelle Arencebia, Surgeon General of the United Nations
Unknown date and location

The Church family was known to be sympathetic to the anomalies, particularly Shawn, who
worked for the Chicago reclamation plant and was quite popular in his neighborhood. He talked
incessantly of civil rights, arguing that the UN recommendations were not unlike the laws that
persecuted other minority groups throughout history. Shawn preached about it often, probably too
much, unaware that those around him were listening.
The Chicago Anomaly Affairs inspection team was made aware of Shawn's disposition before
being dispatched to test his newborn child. They traveled in the company of the Chicago Security
Service, who flipped down the visors on their helmets and drew their weapons, bracing themselves on
the porch of a shabby home near the city walls. The City Inspector knocked on the front door.
The sound brought Bonnie, Shawn’s wife. She looked haggard, as though she hadn’t yet
cleaned up since giving birth. After eying them suspiciously she called to her husband and he came to
the door. “What do you want?” he asked sharply. Several of the armed men, hearing Shawn’s tone,
stiffened and raised their weapons. Metallic clicks sounded as safeties were turned off.
The City Inspector took a step back and silently handed over the document authorizing the
testing for any and all genetic anomalies in the Church's newborn child.
“So,” Shawn said after glancing at the paper and handing it back. “You’ve come to see if my
child is a monster. Unfortunately for you, you are required to perform the test at the time of birthing.
As you can see, my wife gave birth some time ago.”
The City Inspector stepped back up onto the stoop. As he did so, the Guardsmen raised their
weapons higher and trained them squarely upon Shawn’s chest. It used to be that parents would resist
the testing, but not anymore. People had long ago lost their sense of dignity. Still, Shawn was a
powerful man.

The City Inspector said, “You know perfectly well why the testing must be done, just as you
were aware of your obligation to inform the City once your wife had gone into labor so that an
Inspector could be on hand.”

Shawn sighed. “You'd find that people would be more welcoming if you left your guns at
home. You can do your damned test,” he said, and then pointed to the Guardsmen. “But they are not
allowed inside my home.”

“They will not allow me to enter without them,” the City Inspector said, shaking his head.
“And the test must be performed.”
“I will not allow weapons past the door,” Shawn insisted. “If your soldiers must accompany
you, they have to leave their guns on the porch.”

The City Inspector held a brief discussion with the nearest Guardsmen. “We’ll agree to your
request if you give us your word that you will be peaceable.”
“You have my word,” Shawn replied. He stepped to the side to allow the City Inspector and

Guardsmen through the door.

The City Inspector tried to soothe Shawn as they were led through the house. “I’m sure you
having nothing to fear. There have been very few anomalies in this area and your first son tested
normal. It is likely that your newborn will be normal as well.”
It appeared to work, as Shawn’s voice had less of an edge when he responded. “It is not fear of
any results that causes anxiety in me.” He walked them through a grungy kitchen in which dishes were
strewn everywhere. “Will you sleep soundly tonight, knowing that you have helped violate people’s
basic right to procreate? Some of the others don’t think you people have any conscience at all, but I do.
I think that it eats at you, even if you won’t admit it.”
The Inspector refused to fall into the trap. What was he supposed to say, that he had long ago
set aside his morality when it came to his duty? Would it be better to tell this citizen that of course he
knew what he was doing was wrong, but that right and wrong had no bearing on following orders? He
had seen what happened to those that questioned the Mayor. According to the history books,
Americans had turned the threat of communism into a witch hunt after World War Two. The Great
Atomic War had produced similar results. And just as in those times, everyone was suspicious of
everyone else.

Shawn seemed to recognize the City Inspector's reluctance to answer.
“Now I see,” Shawn said. “It isn't that you don't have a conscience. You're just afraid to let it

show.”

“What I'm afraid of is that allowing misguided emotions to drive our decision-making will
result in the end of the human race as we know it.”
Shawn stopped in front of a closed door and turned around. “If these anomalies are so
dangerous and we’re the victims, why is it that we’re the ones doing all the killing? What is it about
being human that gives us a right to live while their lives are taken away so quickly?”
“We don’t murder the mothers that bear us.”
“In some cases we do,” Shawn persisted. “And not all anomaly births injure or kill the mother,
as you well know. If they did, you wouldn’t need to do this ridiculous test. So tell me, what gives you
the right to kill anomaly children that have done nothing wrong?”
“Our government.” The City Inspector pushed past Shawn and walked through the door.
Inside was Bonnie and a young boy, Silas, Shawn’s first born, seated upon a filthy couch.
Cradled in the boy’s arms was the infant. Bonnie rose immediately to position herself between the City
Inspector and her children. In one swift movement Shawn moved from behind the guardsmen to stand
with his wife. They held a brief whispered conversation, throughout which Bonnie appeared to become
more and more upset.

The City Inspector sighed. “Step aside and hand us the child so we may get underway.”
It took less than twenty minutes to complete the test, though the tense silence blanketing them
all made it seem longer. First they had to take Geiger counter readings of the entire room, to get a
baseline. Then they took readings of the family, to make sure there would be no chance of any
interference creating a false positive. By the time they finished scanning the child, the unfortunate
reality was clear.

The child was an anomaly.
Despite Shawn's promise, both parents launched themselves at the Guardsmen when they took
the child outside. For all of his caution, Shawn Church obviously didn’t know much about the full
arms detail of Chicago Guardsmen. They had their secondary weapons out in an instant and cut the
couple down in a flurry of gunfire. The eldest boy cried out, but he smartly stayed seated on the couch
and watched his parents bleed to death. The City Inspector made a mental note to send along someone

from the City Orphanage to pick up the boy before turning to walk out the door.
It took a half hour to return to the inner-city where the anomaly quarantine center was located,
and a downpour had begun by the time they passed through the security gate and on to the Retention
Block. The City Inspector snorted inwardly as he looked at the words stenciled above the entrance. Is
that the purpose of this place, to retain? If so, it does a very poor job of it. Most of the children that
enter through this door don’t live a week. Is this how morality changes, he wondered. Something
catastrophic happens that alters our way of life, creates a profound shift in our culture, and our
definitions of right and wrong struggle to catch up? If it hadn’t been for that damned nuclear war, for
those madmen that had brought civilization crashing down upon us, I wouldn’t be put in the position of
having to march newborn children to their deaths. It would be interesting to see what Chicago would
have looked like at this same point in time had there been no war. Though, he supposed, we wouldn’t
call ourselves Chicagoans. We’d still be Americans.
“Incoming?”
The City Inspector noticed that he had reached the front desk of the Retention Block. I can
wish all I want that I didn’t have to do this. In the end, here I am, carrying this infant and signing him
into this place where they will catalog him, take a few bio-samples for study, and discard him like so
much waste. In my position, I can’t afford to think about what ifs and why nots. I just have to do my
job and thank any God that might still be out there that my family is healthy and human.
He pressed his thumb into the fingerprint reader on the desk and signed the child in. There was
a place on the screen to record the deaths of Bonnie and Shawn Church, and he filled that section out as
well. Internal Review would look over the report and match it with the reports filed by the Guardsmen.
All this was done to make sure that the anomaly testing process remained free from corruption. There
were over a thousand people working in testing, most of them bureaucrats whose only purpose was
checking up on the work of others. And all they had to go on were these cross-referenced reports
submitted by those in the field. It’s a wonder we get anything done at all, the City Inspector thought
silently. He looked down at the child. I’ll be glad when I can get this thing inside and get the hell out
of here.

But once he had been waved past the desk and into the Retention Bloc, his hopes of escaping
quickly and quietly vanished. He saw his boss, Jonathan Thorne, Director of Anomaly Affairs, walking
about the bloc, occasionally peering into the nursery stockades. Thorne looked up and walked over.
“Another one?” he asked, wrinkling his nose and peering down at the kennel in the City
Inspector's hand. “I swear they're coming more quickly these days. I keep telling everyone how much
easier this would all be if it were some kind of disease, rather than a mutation. Diseases can be cured.
Or better yet, vaccinated out of existence.”
The City Inspector didn't respond, knowing better than to interrupt. Thorne was likeable
enough, perhaps even friendly, but he was still a high-ranking member of the government and one had
to watch their words around any man in such a position. Caution, as the saying went, was the better
part of valor.

“Perhaps you can help me with a problem,” Thorne continued. “The Mayor's sister wants a

child.”

No further explanation was necessary. The tale of Lindsay Donovan's inability to bear children
was well known in Chicago. She had been pregnant with an anomaly a few years back, one with a
terribly high radiation level. Her life had been endangered when she’d gone into labor until, over her
tearful protests, the Mayor had ordered the doctor to perform a Cesarian and euthanize the fetus as
quickly as possible. In a rather sad bit of irony, the child ceased to emit any radiation once it was dead
and Lindsay Donovan survived but with a womb as withered as the fallout-laden countryside. Days
later her husband committed suicide.
The City Inspector recalled the Mayor's sister standing alone and sobbing to herself while
Cardinal Grabowski read the mass for the funeral of her husband. It was the funeral of nearly everyone

she held dear, and it might as well have been the funeral of any future children she'd planned on having
as well. Yet the Cardinal refused even to acknowledge the tiny second casket resting to one side; in
fact, the Vatican had made it clear that they supported the United Nations position, even going so far as
to publicly state that anomalies did not possess souls. Everyone attending the funeral considered the
thing in that miniscule box as a danger to be avoided. But to her, to Lindsay Donovan--not the Mayor's
sister but Lindsay Donovan the mother--it was her first and only child. Anomaly or not, human or not,
her grief was no different than that of any mother. But no one shared her pain and so she was indeed
alone.

Remembering all this, unconsciously picturing her face, the wall around the City Inspector’s
emotions failed him and he felt anew the grief he’d felt seeing her in pain. He thought about his own
children and what it would mean to have them swept away before he'd even had a chance to know
them. The City Inspector thought about all that, and then recalled how he'd spoken to his wife about
his grief, and how she had shared hers with him as well. He knew that she felt as he did and the
sentiment was shared throughout the community. They grieved for Lindsay Donovan as a group, and
they came together to share their sadness with one another, froming bonds with each other as they did.
But not Lindsay Donovan. She had remained withdrawn. The grief she bore had to have been
worse than theirs, left alone as she was, too high up the food chain as the Mayor's sister to have many
true friends, and yet more vulnerable than anyone. As a result of her tragedy she was further isolated,
while everyone else was bound closer together. She had become so thoroughly alone that it was
evident even from the grainy black and white pictures in the newspaper. When the City Inspector had
opened the paper the day after the funeral and had read the stories and seen the pictures, he noted sadly
how many people had made a point at the mass to express their condolences for the death of her
husband. He had slammed the paper down at the breakfast table and muttered aloud, “That poor
woman will hate us forever.”

His wife had looked at him confused. “We're all mourning with her. How could she possibly

hate us?”

“But we only mourn her husband, don't we? We don't even mention her child.”
“You mean the anomaly?”
“Yes, that. And because of it, she'll never forgive us.”
His wife had waved him off. “She's the Mayor's sister. The city has always been fond of her.
Now, the people practically worship her.”
And that's why she hates us, he thought. Don't you realize that our reverence is the very reason
she feels isolated? And after many weeks and months had passed, they could all see that her pain had
worsened when she appeared in public. The brightness in her eyes had gone, stolen away by sadness.
Yet this made the people love her all the more. No one actually knew her, exchanged knowing glances
with her, gossiped over a meal with her, because she refused to connect with anyone else. “She fears
connection,” he told his wife. “She quakes at the thought of being loved, because she believes that all
those whose love she accepts will be taken from her.”
And now here was Thorne, his boss, peering into this prison of infants because she wanted a
child. “Sir,” he said carefully. “These children are scheduled to be euthanized. They cannot be
adopted.”

“Not by most, no,” Thorne nodded. “This has been approved by Mayor Donovan himself, just
yesterday. He personally asked me to select a child for his sister.”
“Mayor Donovan actually approved that?”
“Yes. God knows why. I’ve heard whispers the she blamed him personally for the loss of her
child, and that she’s been after him to let her do this for some time.” Thorne looked around quickly, as
though worried that someone else might hear what he’d said. Apparently even men in such high
positions had to be cautious when speaking of the Mayor. Looking satisfied, he turned back to the City
Inspector and leaned in closely. “I hear she threatened to kill herself last week. Now the Mayor has

given in to her request.”
The City Inspector said nothing.
“He’s asked that I find a suitable child. One that does not give off too strong a radiation level
and whose immediate family is deceased.” Thorne sighed. “It seems an impossible task. Most of
these children are within the safety limits for radiation, but all of them have at least one parent
surviving them.”

The City Inspector saw his chance to relieve his conscience. “Actually, sir, this child I was
bringing in would probably be perfect for Ms. Donovan,” he said, holding up the kennel. “It was tested
this afternoon and its radiation levels are well within the safety limits.”
“I notice you neglected to mention the parents,” Thorne said suspiciously.
“Shawn Church and his wife are dead, sir.”
“Christ. How did that happen?”
“They attacked the Guardsmen.”
“You would think these people would know better by now,” Thorne shook his head. “How old

is the child?”

“One or two days, sir.”
Thorne nodded approvingly. “It will need to be tested thoroughly and spend some time in a
nursery to make sure it’s healthy.”
The City Inspector looked around the Retention Block. Glass cribs held the children in tiny
rooms that were built to guard against radiation emissions. “Here, sir?”
“I suppose not,” Thorne said. “This anomaly is no longer like the rest, is it? I wonder if it has
any notion of how close it came to death today.”
The City Inspector winced internally. Thorne’s words brought back the stark realization that
none of the twenty or so other living beings in their cells would survive the week. “I can take it over to
Northwestern Memorial, sir,” he said. It was the closest hospital to City Hall, and it had a radiation
poisoning quarantine in which they could place the anomaly for testing.
“That will be fine. I’ll inform the Mayor that we have a child for his sister.” He pulled out a
relay phone, the kind that operated over radio waves and were only used by members of government
and the exceptionally wealthy.

With a sigh of relief, the City Inspector turned to walk out the door, but stopped as he
remembered something. “Sir?” he asked, turning back and hoping that whoever Thorne was calling
hadn’t yet picked up the line.
“What is it?”
“The Church’s had another child,” he said, then adding quickly, “A human child, sir. And we
had to leave him at their home after the…incident.”
Thorne nodded grimly. “How unfortunate. I’ll have someone from the City Orphanage swing
by to pick him up this evening.” He favored the City Inspector with a smile. “You’re a good man. Not
everyone would think of their child like that.”
“Yes sir, thank you sir,” the City Inspector replied. But as he left the Retention Block and drove
to the hospital, all he could think of was the bullet-riddled corpses of Shawn and Bonnie Church.

***

They meant to discourage her, but Lindsay Donovan knew that such discouragement was really
coming from her brother, and so she ignored it. Thorne told her that the child had been cleared for
adoption, but he insisted there was no reason to act hastily. He suggested that she spend some time
with the child; make sure that she really wanted it.
But Lindsay didn’t need any time. She had fallen in love as soon as she’d laid eyes on him.
“That is going to be my child,” she insisted, pointing into the quarantine room.

Thorne looked at her stoically, but that was alright. She could endure his obvious disapproval
just as well as she could her brother’s. She could endure anything if it meant finally having this child.
“I just want to make sure you're really ready for this,” Thorne said.
“The only thing I’m not ready for is continuing this conversation.”
He studied her face for a moment. “Why are you in such a rush?”
“Rush? I’ve waited nearly three years for this day. My brother’s exception order says I can
take this child home today. You can’t keep me from him.”
“Then you didn’t read the exception order closely.”
“It said the child need only be proven healthy and of safe radiation levels. Both of those
conditions are fulfilled. I don’t need anything else.”
“Not true,” Thorne shook his head. “It also said that the adoption must be certified by the
Mayor himself, once the tests have been completed.”
“He’s agreed to certify the adoption!”
“Yes he has, so long as you spoke with me first.”
Lindsay could see in his eyes that he was stubbornly serious. She had dealt with Thorne in the
past and she had yet to ever see this look in his eyes. It was the look of one with the weight of
authority behind their actions. It was a look of dominance.
“What do you know about being a parent, Jonathan,” she spat, feeling her blood rush to her face
and make it hot. “You are unmarried and without children! Who do you think you are to deny this
child a loving parent?”

“Ah,” Thorne replied evenly. “So your desire to adopt an anomaly stems from concern for its
well being. Seeing it in need, knowing what would have happened to it had you not intervened, you
selflessly sprung into action and came to its aid.”
She saw instantly how ludicrous the words sounded. “I suppose you’re going to tell me that an
anomaly doesn’t deserve such treatment?”
“That really isn’t for me to decide. But the question is moot since that isn’t your motivation

anyway.”

“You dare call me a liar?”
“A liar to yourself perhaps. As the Mayor’s sister, surely you have seen several such children
before this one. And yet you not try to rescue all of them. Nor do I suspect you will rescue any others
after today.”

“Why should I? I couldn’t save them all even if I wanted to.”
He smiled. “So who are you really trying to save today?”
She was surprised by his persistence. While she had no official position within the city
government, her relationship to the Mayor was usually enough to scare off anyone who might question
her. “Why should anyone need saving? Perhaps I simply wish to share some of my good fortune in
life with a child.”

He lost the smile. “Why an anomaly? Why not a healthy human child from one of the adoption

centers?”

“There are plenty of families willing to adopt those children. I don't see anyone lining up to

help the anomalies.”

“There are some who advocate for anomaly rights. The father of this child, for instance, was
quite vociferous in his support for them. I hear there is even something of an enclave outside the city
walls for runaway anomalies.”
“Outside the walls? What kind of life is that?”
“At least they have a community. There are people inside the walls putting their well-being on
the line to try to change the government policy. But who is looking out for you?”
“I have people who care for me,” she said. “Family and friends.”
“None of whom really know you. You have family, but you rarely visit them. The people who

you call your friends hardly see you. You attend church, but you sit alone in the front pew. In fact, I
can't think of a single person with whom you've had anything other than a purely superfluous
relationship these past couple of years.”
Lindsay was taken aback. He was cutting down everything she said. “I can take care of

myself.”

“I don't doubt that,” Thorne nodded. “And it's common for people to withdraw from grief for a
time. But this has been going on with you for years. And I know why it’s gone on so long.”
“I'm sure you think it's my fault.”
“No, actually. The fault lies with all of us. Everyone from the Mayor at the top to the ditch
diggers at the bottom. We all saw what you were doing, how you were withdrawing further and further,
yet we did nothing. And so you've remained completely alone, never risking a connection with a single
person. And now suddenly there's this adoption request.”
“You say what a terrible thing it is that I've been alone, but you deny me when I finally reach

out to another person.”

“That's my point, Ms. Donovan, it's not a person at all. It's not human. You can argue all you
like that the thing in that nursery deserves a life, love, and the right to pursue happiness, as they used to
say before the war. And perhaps you're right. But what you have to understand is that child is not a
member of our community. It never will be. We are a society of human beings, and that thing is
something else.”

“That's not true. The genetic differences in them are no more than those of different races. But
we don't euthanize every black child in Chicago, now do we?”
“The scientists can talk about common genetic percentages all they like,” Thorne said, a dark
look crossing his face. “Maintaining that which makes us human has become very important in the
years since the war. You've seen what's happened outside the walls. What the wildlife has turned into.
And in my work I've seen what these anomalies do to families. I know what your pregnancy did to
your body. But believe me, I've seen far, far worse. These things can--”
“Rot their mothers from the inside out and occasionally kill them. Do you really think I'm not
familiar with the potential results?”
“You've experienced some of the tragedy personally, yet now you want to adopt an anomaly?”
Finally she saw where he was going with this. “You think my motives are selfish,” she said.
“You think I'm trying to resurrect my dead baby.”
“I don't really care what your motives are. The Mayor wants me to make sure you're ready to
care for a child. To do that, I have to know why you're suddenly so adamant to adopt this one.”
“Simple. I'm done being alone and I have a mother's instinct. This child is within the safety
parameters and is without parents. We seem to be a match.”
“Perhaps,” said Thorne. “But before I can allow you to complete this adoption, I have to know
whether you truly want to adopt this child, or if any child would suffice.”
“How selfish you think I am.”
“Not selfish. Just consumed with a grief that has festered for three years unaddressed. If you
take possession of this child, I have no doubt that you will care for it as if it were your own. But who
will you be doing it for? Do you truly believe that the child deserves the life you're planning on giving
it? Or will you be giving it the life your own child would have deserved if it had been human?”
“They both deserve a life. Everyone does.”
“If you truly believe that, there are plenty of human children and families in need. Why aren't

you helping them?”

“Perhaps I should be. But as you said, I don't really know anyone and none of them know me.
Maybe I thought I'd start with someone with whom I'd have a clean slate. Someone who not only didn't
know me, but didn't know of me, either.”
“Of you?”

“You people all think you have some kind of insight into my life just because you see my
picture in the paper and read what they say about me. But you can't know someone from a piece of
paper, or words written about them. The admiration I receive is completely misplaced.”
“You think you aren't worthy of admiration.”
“Yes I am! But people don't admire me. They only pity me because of the deaths I've endured.”
“Is that all?”
“Yes. My advocacy for anomaly rights goes unheard, unpublished in the papers, and
unapproved by my esteemed brother. If it weren't for the coverage of my husband's funeral, I would be
despised by the entire city.”
“Perhaps you’re underestimating us.”
Her anger flared again. “You're the Director of Anomaly Affairs, you probably spend more time
around these children and their parents than anyone else in the city, and you can't bear even referring to
them by their names. You use pronouns instead, or the word it.”
“I don't deny my view that they aren't human,” Thorne shrugged. “Seeing the damage they can
cause, I also don't enjoy being around them. But don't you think that even my mind could be
changed?”

“No, Jonathan. I know you well enough to know that when you believe in something as
strongly as you do this, the hounds of hell couldn't change your mind. And do you know why?”
“Tell me.”
“Because you fear these children. You fear what they might do to their mothers. You fear how
they might change what it means to be human. But most of all you fear their ability to manipulate
radiation as if it was some kind of satanic witchcraft. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth
out all fear.”

Thorne's face lit up warmly. “John, four-eighteen. That is one of my Mother's favorite

passages.”

“Written by a man that lived over two thousand years ago, and yet even today his words speak
to us. How difficult must it have been for this imperfect man to write these perfect words? He wrote
of the Jews, but even their struggles don't compare to the global genocide of the anomalies.”
“So you're, what, the Jesus Christ of our time? Back not to bring salvation to mankind, but

these other beings instead?”

“I'm no Messiah. I'm just doing what Christ and the Apostles once did. They changed people's
minds, so much so that mankind built a religion around their teachings. They wrote down their words
in a book that has survived for thousands of years.”
“And who will write your book?”
She turned to look back into the nursery. “Perhaps this child will, or else those that will know

him.”

He nodded. “You've already imagined his future life, haven't you? Pictured what he'll look like
when he's older? Imagined what his place in the world might be?”
“Yes, I have.”
“And how does he look?”
She blinked a tear from her eye. “He's beautiful. Strong and respected, but also kind. I see him
with his own children, tending to them as a good father should. I see that his wife loves him, and so do
his neighbors. I sound silly, but that's what you want. Then you’ll have an excuse to reject the
adoption.”

“No,” Thorne said softly. “What I wanted was to know was that when you pictured your son's
future, you saw in it all the things a life might mean for hi, rather than yourself. A mother does not
want her children for any reasons to do with herself. She wants to have them so that they can grow and
have fulfilling lives of their own. Ultimately it is her most fulfilling moment when her children leave
the nest and become independent. And because of what you told me, I know now that you are truly a

mother. Perhaps more importantly, if anyone would be successful in rearing an anomaly it would be
you, as isolated from humanity as you are.”
“I think that you enjoy toying with me like this.”
“I'm approving the adoption.”
She stared at him a moment. “Tonight?”
“Tonight, tomorrow, whenever you like. There is no longer anything standing in your way.”
In spite of herself, she leaped forward and hugged him. “I don't know what to say. Thank you.”
He hugged her back. “Change my mind. I'm not the closed-minded fool you think I am. My
job forbids me to treat anomalies as I would humans, and I've built my beliefs around that job so that I
won't be wracked with guilt and remorse, but that doesn't preclude me from greater understanding. All
our science is incomplete, because we've never had an anomaly in our community to watch as they
grew up. Those who know the truth about this child will be watching very closely, and when they've
watched enough to come to a conclusion, I promise that you will have your own apostles, ready to tell
your story to all that will listen. But take this advice: don't let anyone know that your child is an
anomaly unless absolutely necessary. Don't make that information public until he's an adult, and then
only if he agrees.”

She stepped back from him and looked in his eyes. “Here you just told me you don't even think
the child is human, but still you're trying to protect him.”
“I read the Bible too,” he said. “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so
take courage and do it. That's from the Book of Ezra.”
“Did you really mean it, that I could take him home tonight?
“You don't believe me?”
“A moment ago you told me I might not ever get the child, and now you tell me that he'll be
coming home with me this very night.”
“Well, moments ago you were hugging me, and now you're suspicious that I'm going to pull the

rug out from under you.”
“I suppose,” she said.
“When will you sign his discharge papers?” Thorne asked.
“Tonight! I would sign them right now if you had them.”
Thorne smiled, and then reached into his pocket. From it he pulled out a folded piece of paper
and a pen and handed both to her. She unfolded the paper and saw that it was the discharge form.
“You've already signed it! You were always going to let me have him!”
“No,” he shook his head. “Though I was fairly sure you would pass the test, I still had to give
it. I just trusted you to be the person I thought you were.”
“You don't know me. You even said so yourself.”
“Oh, I'm not so sure,” he said. “Perhaps I didn't know you. But now I find that many of my
assumptions about you are proven correct, and so it is reasonable to assume my other assumptions are
correct as well.” He looked her over a moment. “You know, I was once engaged to a woman when I
was younger.”

“Do I remind you of her?”
“A bit perhaps.” He paused. “She wasn't quite so good looking, though.”
She smiled and signed the discharge form. Thorne spent the next few hours with her, helping
her to fill out the rest of the paperwork, putting together a supply pack for the baby and just talking her
through the process. She didn't mind his company. Perhaps it was because she was overjoyed about
the adoption being approved, but she began to consider how handsome Thorne was. So when they
were done that night, and he had helped to load the child and the care package into her car, Lindsay
Donovan invited Jonathan Thorne over for dinner. He never left.
Despite such a drastic move, they took things slowly at first. Her place in one of the taller
highrises that still stood was large,, even by prewar standards, so he took the guest bedroom. He wasn't

able to shed the way he felt about the child immediately. Lindsay understood though, and she helped
him work through it. The flat used to be a place of silence and solitude. Now, to her delight, it bustled
and moved, constantly needing attention. Physical intimacy eventually came as well. Thorne was a
patient man and caution came naturally to him. He enjoyed the easy times with them and was willing
to do the work when it was difficult. After a surprisingly short time had passed, Lindsay walked in on
him in the baby's room where he was standing over the crib, just sort of studying the child as it looked
up at him. She took him by the hand, led him to the bedroom, and showed him physically how much
she had fallen in love with him.

“Nearly two months since you adopted the child,” he said as they lied next to each other in bed.
“And you still haven't named him.”
“I just don't want him to end up with the wrong name,” she answered. “I've always hated mine.
I don't want my child to feel the same way.”
“Do you really think a name matters that much?”
She leaned over and kissed him. “How could I say no when your name rolls so sweetly off my

tongue?”

He smiled but refused to let her change the subject. “Do you at least have some ideas?”
She blushed, but answered evenly. “I was thinking of naming him after you, actually.”
“I don't know,” he said, looking sheepish. But then he seemed to brighten. “What if he took my
father's name for his first, his biological family's name for his middle, and your last name?”
“What's your father's name?”
“Anton.”
“Anton Church Donovan,” she said slowly, and then repeated it several times, as if she were
trying it out. “It sounds perfect! Powerful, but kind. Like the column of a building.” She said the
name several more times.

“I think you're right, it is perfect,” he said quietly. “But how will you explain to your brother
that he has my father's name? There are very few Anton's in Chicago, you know, and the Mayor knows
my father well. If you call the boy Anton, your brother will know about us.”
“You're right,” she said. “I suppose the only thing we can do is get married.”
It wasn't a traditional proposal, but they were both happy and they got married a week later.
The wedding melted away any remaining misgivings Thorne had for the child. They both agreed to
keep their last names, so Anton was still called Donovan. But there was also no doubt who his father
was, as Thorne instantly became a doting husband and father. He also began to be promoted up
through the ranks of city government personally by the Mayor. There was a bit of jealousy to deal with
at first, but Thorne's work was always of the highest caliber, and eventually he became the Mayor's
personal adviser. Thorne and Lindsay both began to wonder if changing the policy on anomalies might
be easier than they'd thought.

***

But it wasn't. Once he had gotten situated as the Mayor's adviser, Thorne tried to broach the
subject several times. For the first few weeks the Mayor and his cabinet would rarely respond beyond
politely dismissing him. Now and then one of them would take the time to patiently explain to him
why he was wrong and why the kinds of questions he was asking were dangerous. But that politeness
eventually eroded once Thorne was an established part of the team. He and the Mayor began to
converse on the subject openly on their walks throughout City Hall, in full view of other workers. He
tried to talk science first. When that failed, Thorne tried the behavioral route, attempting to rationalize
some of the more bizarre symptoms that anomalies showed. Since there was little documented
psychology on anomalies, it meant only reading a couple of logs and he was as expert as anyone else
on the subject. “Come on, Patrick,” he said one day as they were walking up the Mayor's office.

“We're not just talking about a nameless, faceless group of people any longer. We're talking about your
nephew.”

“That thing isn't my nephew,” the Mayor shook his head sadly. “It’s an indulgence I took on

behalf of my sister.”

“But, sir, you've spent time with Anton. You know him well enough to see how unnecessary

some of the harsher laws are.”

The Mayor studied him a moment. “Anton's life has a purpose. He was allowed to live so that
my sister wouldn’t kill herself. I know you're married to her now, and that you love her, but did she
ever tell you that? That she threatened to kill herself if I didn't allow her to adopt Anton?”
“We've discussed it, sir, yes.”
“Well then you know the position she put me in. Thank God she's kept the whole thing quiet.”
Mayor Donovan took a deep breath. “All I can do now is try to salvage the situation so that some good
comes from all this.”

Thorne argued with himself over the ensuing months as to what his brother-in-law might have
meant. His interest was magnified by the sudden uptick in time the Mayor spent with Anton over the
ensuing months. He would come around for dinner once or twice a week, eat with them, and then ask
Anton to take a walk with him around the city. Lindsay thought that it was a sweet gesture, and took it
as a sign that her brother might finally be coming around. Thorne wasn’t convinced.
On one of the evenings when the Mayor had returned Anton from their walk, the child, now
eight years old, rushed to where Thorne had been reading the paper. “Father, Father!” he exclaimed. “I
know what you are! I know what we are!”
Thorne put down his paper and looked quizzically at his son, who was shifting his weight from

foot to foot excitedly.

When he didn’t answer, Anton continued. “Or is it just Mother who can do it? Uncle said that
it can be passed from parent to child. So? Can you do it too?”
He was speaking hurriedly, borderline manic. “What are you talking about?” Thorne asked.
“What we can do!” Anton cried. “You must know if you have it!”
Thorne went rigid. Anton was the right age to begin showing signs, but surely his brother-in-
law wouldn’t spring this on them. “Show me,” he said.
At that moment Lindsay had come into the room, surely attracted by all the noise Anton was
making. Thorne saw instantly that she’d noticed the look on his face. He didn’t know how much she’d
guessed, but she began biting her lower lip.
Anton looked around the room. “What do you want me to try it on? I’m not too good at it yet
and I don’t want to break anything expensive.”
Thorne still wasn’t sure what Anton was going to do, but his heart began thundering in his
chest. Lindsay was standing like a statue. She was obviously too frightened to speak. Thorne
understood how she felt. He wanted this whole thing, these questions, Anton himself, to just go away.
But his son was still eagerly awaiting his response.
“How about this cup?” Thorne said slowly, reaching to pick it off of the end table.
Anton smiled broadly. He stepped to the other side of the room and turned to face them, Thorne
sitting with an empty coffee cup in his outstretched palm. “Don’t move,” he told them. Then he closed
his eyes and rubbed his temples.

Suddenly Anton opened his eyes, and Lindsay squeaked in fright. His eyes had gone a solid
pale orange and the look of determination on his face was terrifying. He stretched out one hand,
fingers reaching. The air between them seemed to increase in density and it looked like waves of
something clear were flowing through it, the way the air above a flame becomes distorted. Thorne was
about to ask what he was doing when the coffee mug in his hand lurched unsteadily into the air. It
hung there for a moment, suspended above his palm. Then, as Thorne stared open-mouthed, it slowly
floated across the room and landed gently in Anton’s hand.

His eyes returned to normal. When he looked down at the mug in his hand he smiled and
looked up at them. “That’s my best yet! I’m going to go practice.” With that, he rushed from the
room.

“My God,” Lindsay whispered.
Thorne stood and hugged her, holding her tight. It was getting late and he led her up to their
bedroom. Along the way, he said, “Anton told me that your brother started all this. He said Patrick
told him to ask us about it.”

“He wouldn’t,” she replied. “Especially not now. They’ve been getting along so well together.”
Throughout the night they were occasionally awoken by the sounds of objects falling onto
Anton’s floor. Thorne was sure that he was practicing moving other objects. As the night went on the
crashes and bangs came with less frequency until, finally, there was silence. Thorne figured Anton
must finally have tired and gone to bed.
In the morning they walked to the kitchen together, noticing that the lights were already on.
Thorne assumed Anton must already be awake and eating. But when they walked into the room they
found Anton at the table with the Mayor and William Koskie, the Defense Director. The man in charge
of protecting the city from all threats, including the perceived danger posed by anomalies. “What are
you doing here, Sir?” Thorne asked.
Mayor Donovan looked up and smiled. “Ah, you’re finally up.” He stood and clapped Thorne
on the back and gave Lindsay a kiss on the cheek. “We were just discussing Anton's future. Sit, sit.”
Thorne looked over Anton, who was sitting quietly with a serious look on his face. They sat on
either side of him and Mayor Donovan returned to his seat.
“He is a very bright boy,” Mayor Donovan continued. Despite the smile, Thorne could tell his
boss was choosing his words carefully. “Very talented. There is so much good he could do, so many
options in his life. William here was just talking about some of the challenges we face in city security
and how much use Anton could be in his department.”
“We should talk about this later,” Thorne said quickly. “In private, sir.” The conversation he’d
had with the Mayor rushed back to him now.
“A boy this smart doesn’t need to be coddled, Jonathan,” the Mayor replied.
“It isn’t a matter of coddling,” Thorne said. “He’s an eight year old child and we’re his parents.
If you have thoughts about his future, you can bring them to us.” He turned to Koskie. “And you have
no business here at all.”

“Relax, Jonathan, I invited him,” the Mayor said. “If you want to be angry with someone, be
angry with me. He’s only here because we’re off to inspect the guardsmen on the wall in an hour.”
“I want to know what you’ve been telling my son, sir.”
“I’m not your son,” Anton murmured.
Silence penetrated the conversation for several moments before Lindsay said sharply, “What did

you just say?”

“I said I’m not his son,” Anton repeated. He looked up, not angry but upset. “I’m not your son

either, am I?”

“Yes you are,” Lindsay said sharply.
Anton regarded her critically and then turned to Thorne for confirmation.
“Your mother is right,” Thorne told him. “You may not be our biological offspring, but you’re
our son. You will always be our son.”
“But, my parents—my real parents—who were they?”
“That’s a conversation for later,” Thorne said firmly. He rested a hand on his son’s heaving
shoulder, trying to comfort him. As he did so, he turned back to the Mayor. “This was something to be
handled within my family, sir. You had no right to intrude like that.” He was shaking with anger.
“Careful, Jonathan. Do not forget that I make the law in this city. You don’t have any rights
except those that I choose to bestow upon you.”

Thorne took a deep breath. “From now on, if you want to discuss serious matters with Anton, I
would like you to consult with me first. I think I’m owed that much, as your aide and his father.”
Mayor Donovan sighed. “You make too much of this, Jonathan,” he said. “What did I say but
the truth? And if you’ll recall, you owe this family that you’re so protective of entirely to me.”
That should do it, Thorne thought silently. And he was right.
“You do not own us!” Lindsay erupted from the table, her chair toppling backwards. “Nor do
you own anyone outside your pathetic little circle. Even as you make your speeches and decrees,
opposition springs up from all around you. Dissenters amongst the people, enclaves outside the walls,
news of uprisings in other cities, yet you come to our home to tell us we owe all we have to you?”
But the Mayor just laughed darkly. “You see why the boy is so tough, William? My sister and
her husband have raised him in their image, and he is the better for it.”
“You’re right,” Koskie nodded. “Whatever they are doing is working Look at the boy.”
They all turned towards Anton. His eyes had dried and he was watching them argue stoically.
“He is strong,” Thorne agreed. He took a deep, measured breath. “And when he’s of age, this
may be an appropriate conversation to have with him. But not now.”
The Mayor shook his head. “I’m sorry, but we do not agree. It’s impossible to hold back the
talent of such a child, and to attempt to do so would only frustrate him and retard his natural abilities. I
don’t even want to think what a lack of disciplined nurturing might mean for his other abilities.”
Thorne looked up sharply, disbelieving his ears. Surely the Mayor wouldn’t reveal what he had
done so callously, particularly not in front of Koskie. But when he glanced over at the city’s chief
defender, there was no look of confusion upon his face. And it was then that Thorne noticed a motley
collection of objects on the kitchen table: salt and pepper shakers, a picture frame, a wooden spoon,
several crumpled up pieces of paper. He showed them, Thorne thought. I didn’t warn him, and now
he’s showed them.

“I'd like a muffin,” Mayor Donovan said to Anton with a smile, as if reading Thorne's thoughts.
Anton turned toward the kitchen counter and stretched his hand out. His eyes glowed orange in
an instant and with shocking speed one of the muffins from the plate on the counter zipped into his
palm, crumbs tumbling to the floor. He handed the muffin to the Mayor expressionlessly.
“Such a talented boy belongs in the service,” Koskie said, giving Thorne a hard look.
The truth was that this was proof of everything he and his wife stood for, that the talents of an
anomaly were so useful and needed that the very government hunting them down would employ them.
Still, Thorne had never imagined that it would be his son that would act as that example. He had no
doubt that he would be an effective member of the City Security Service, but as he’d said, apt or not,
that was something for Anton himself to decide when he was of age. Thorne did his best to remain
polite but firm as he told the Mayor that he would not allow his son to enter the service underage.
They fought back a while longer, but in the end they gave up. Donovan was a despot, but he
was still a politician. He knew that if he forced the issue and conscripted Anton against the will of his
parents, word would get out and the backlash would be harsh. Still, the Mayor’s office suddenly
seemed dangerous. Despite many attempts by Lindsay to reassure him of her brother’s good intentions,
Thorne remained wary.

He was amazed at how quickly Anton recovered from the encounter that morning. He seemed
to accept that they were still his parents. The only change in his behavior was an intense interest in his
biological family, about which Thorne knew only a little and Lindsay knew almost nothing. They had
decided to tell Anton that his parents had died in an accident. When he would ask for details, Thorne
would tell him that they didn’t have any.
The Mayor’s visits practically ceased from then on, and after several years Thorne’s concerns
faded. By the time Anton had entered his teenage years, the development and control of his abilities
had progressed amazingly. He was particularly pleased that his son had shown none of the feared
behavioral symptoms: no schizophrenia, no violent outbursts, no rebellion against authority. Actually,

the only noticeable difference between him and their neighbor’s children was that Anton had almost no
hair on his body at all. But they had explained that as simply a style choice, one that happened to be
somewhat in vogue amongst the more accomplished academics. Anton had taken an interest in
education, pouring over books, particularly those that had survived the war. Thorne asked him on his
sixteenth birthday what he wanted to do for work and was unsurprised when Anton said he was
thinking of being a teacher. Thorne couldn’t have been more proud of him.
Even the city seemed to be coming along. Thorne might have his reservations about the Mayor,
but the government worked hard to clean up and rebuild Chicago. Within the walls there were still
many areas that weren’t much more than bombed out rubble, but others had been shown a great deal of
care and new buildings complete with plumbing and some amenities were sprouting. It meant a great
deal of work for Thorne as well, but it was good work and he was happy. It never occurred to him that
the happiness of his family would come crashing down in an event that would ignite fear and the thirst
for war throughout the world as never before.
It had started so simply when he brought Anton to work one day. Mayor Donovan had invited
them to lunch and the topic of Anton’s future came up again, but this time the Mayor merely asked
Anton about his plans. Anton told his uncle of his desire to teach, and the Mayor had been fairly
accommodating, pressing him only lightly to work instead for the government, telling him that the city
would be willing to let him head a special security task force, commanding men of Anton’s own
choosing. Anton had replied that he didn’t have much interest in joining the CSS, particularly as he’d
not seen any evidence of a threat; even the enclaves of anomalies outside the city rarely stirred any
trouble beyond an occasional attack outside the walls. So why should he go into the service?
When they got home that evening, everything seemed normal. Anton ate dinner with them and
then went to his room to read. Thorne told Lindsay of the conversation at lunch, but she just shrugged
and said she was glad their son didn’t want to join the service. “My parents were pacifists,” she said.
“If they were still alive today, I don’t think they would support my brother.”
“And you’re married to his chief adviser,” Thorne smiled.
“Yes, but they would have liked you,” she responded. His relay phone chimed and she frowned
at him. “I told you I don’t like them calling on you after hours. Especially during meal times.”
But he hardly heard her. The message on his phone was from Mayor Donovan, and it indicated
there was an emergency. Apparently the anomaly enclave had managed to scale the walls and attack
one of the outskirt neighborhoods. The Chicago Security Service had already responded, but the
Mayor wanted to visit the site himself, and he wanted Thorne there as well.

Lindsay couldn’t see

the message from her seat, but she must have seen the look on his face because she asked, “What
happened?”

“An attack,” he answered, already moving away from the table and putting on his coat. He
stopped at the door and turned to her. “Don’t wait up for me, this could take a while.”
“Tell me what’s going on!”
He smiled to reassure her. “I don’t know yet. I’ll fill you in tomorrow morning.”
But he never told her. She had gone to bed shortly after and when she awoke his side of the bed
was empty. After she had gotten Anton off to school and he still wasn’t home she began to worry. She
retrieved her own relay phone from the cupboard and tried to call him. When he failed to answer she
rang her brother. His voice was shaking when he told her a car was on its way.
When she arrived, her brother took her to a group of rundown shacks near the wall. Those
living in the dwellings, deep in poverty, were standing in makeshift doorways and staring. Her
husband’s body was sprawled on the ground, part of it on a concrete slab that used to be a sidewalk,
and part on the grass. His skin was covered with ugly purple bruises, and there was what looked to be
a rusty railroad spike buried through his chest into the ground. His eyes were open and his mouth was
frozen in a scream.

“We’ve detected radiation levels above normal around his body,” her brother said solemnly.

“An anomaly did this.”
Lindsay collapsed into tears at his feet.

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